Doctors in Devon are worried that people with cancer symptoms are not coming forward because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Western Morning News.
New findings suggest four in 10 people are too concerned about being a burden on the NHS to seek help from their GP.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has warned that delays in getting treatment due to Coronavirus fears pose a long-term risk to people’s health.
FORCE trustee John Renninson (pictured), clinical director of the Peninsula Cancer Alliance and consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said there has been a 75 per cent reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals by doctors across the county.
GPs are reporting far fewer people than usual coming forward with symptoms of cancer.
Nearly all practices now offer consultation through an online platform, which allows patients to access services from their smartphone, tablet or computer.
All GP practices in Devon can now offer video consultations too.
If a GP then decides that they need to see someone face-to-face, they will give patients instructions about when and where to attend so they can be seen safely.
GP practices in Devon are setting up dedicated sites where patient who have, or may have, COVID-19 can be assessed and treated for the virus and other conditions away from other patients.
GPs are using protective equipment such as masks when they do see people face-to-face.
Mr Renninson said: “The best chance of successful treatment for cancer is through early detection. GPs are able to assess over the phone and by video if necessary, and they can plan for you to be safely seen face-to-face.
“Hospitals are continuing to offer tests and treatment for cancer. Social distancing measures are in place to keep patients and staff safe.”
Mr Renninson added: “The type of assessment may change and it may take slightly longer than normal, but this is still better than delaying until after the pandemic.”
Hospitals are putting measures in place to ensure that assessment services are safe for patients to attend, where this is necessary. Hospitals are moving some cancer services off-site or are increasing their use of telephone and video consultations so they can see people remotely.
Mr Renninson’s advice is: “If you have symptoms that are new, persistent, concerning or progressive, contact your GP online via their website or on the telephone for an initial assessment. Once you have contacted your GP, you can discuss safely attending hospital and when is the appropriate time.
“Delays in visiting a doctor with a lump or unusual bleeding could mean a worse outcome. Some cancers are particularly time-sensitive, meaning that relatively short delays can have a big impact on long-term outcomes. With other cancers, a longer delay may affect the outcome very little. Patients can discuss with their GP the potential risks and together balance the risks of exposure versus the risks of delay.”
FORCE Cancer Charity is here to help with your concerns about cancer. To speak to one of our information nurses, please call us on 01392 406151.